State searches for last uninspected coffee plant

LIHUE — The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is still looking for one last uninspected coffee plant, rumored to be floating around on Kauai.

But it’s highly unlikely that the plant is harboring the coffee berry borer (CBB), a tiny beetle native to Africa that’s devastated coffee crops on the Big Island, Oahu and Maui.

There isn’t an established population on Kauai and DOA inspection requirements are in place to keep it that way.

Nine plants slipped through the cracks on Feb. 4 and ended up in the nursery at the Lihue Home Depot, reportedly mixed in with fruit trees.

Investigators believe the plants were part of a single shipment sometime between November 2015 and August 2016 from a nursery in Waimanalo on Oahu.

“Inspectors have surveyed that nursery and did not find any CBB at that nursery or around that area,” said Janelle Saneishi, spokesperson for DOA.

Eight plants on Kauai were confiscated and destroyed. One escaped.

“They (investigators) are still trying to determine where the ninth plant may be located,” Saneishi said.

Representatives from The Home Depot said the company is looking into the incident.

“At this point, we do not believe that Home Depot intentionally purchased or sold the plants with the knowledge of the CBB quarantine,” Saneishi said.

Plant quarantine inspectors are investigating how the plants bypassed the CBB quarantine and inspection requirements to determine if there are other safeguards that can be put in place to ensure the incident isn’t repeated.

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